First, let it be known that your humble host is happy for Jaquays. This post should not be construed as an attack upon that person or a condemnation of that person’s recent choices.
Next, allow me to provide some background information for those readers not “in the know.” Back in the day, Paul Jaquays was a talented designer of table top role-playing game material, especially adventure modules. Jaquays, also a capable artist, provided graphics for various RPG products. Eventually, Jaquays transitioned to the computer gaming industry. Given the money involved, I can’t blame Jaquays for abandoning table top RPGs. Now, Jaquays is undergoing a different transition. Jaquays recently announced the adoption of a feminine identity, “both socially and physically.” Paul Allen Jaquays has become Jennell Allyn Jaquays.
Nowadays, gender transitions aren't exactly front page news and the fact that one of the RPG 'old guard' is transsexual shouldn't be a big deal. What makes this case interesting is that it's Paul Jaquays and to appreciate why this is interesting, we must venture to the Darkside.
Around twenty years ago, Jaquays designed the first few installments of a generic system series of sourcebooks branded as 'Central Casting' by Task Force Games; specifically: Heroes of Legend, Heroes for Tomorrow, and Heroes Now! Each book provided a system of tables that could be used to provide depth and 'color' to player characters (and non-player characters). This was good stuff – boatloads of random tables for character generation. What's not to love? Someone needs to reprint these or at least make them available as cheap PDFs on RPGNow. The young folks these days don't know about good products like these. There is more to this hobby than the 3.5/4E pablum that gets churned out and marketed to our unknowing youth. This is why the OSR is important. This is why we need to preserve and cherish our heritage. Excuse me, I digress. Where was I? Ah, yes...the Darkside.
Via the tables, characters could acquire personality traits. Pleasant and worthwhile traits were called Lightside. Unpleasant or immoral traits were called Darkside, representing the baser aspects of humanity (or, one assumes, other species). Starting with the second book, neutral traits were also included. Characters could have a combination of traits. Possession of Darkside traits did not necessarily imply that a given character was evil; such traits could be interpreted as 'flaws' that a character could work to overcome. However, “...more often than not, characters who exhibit several [Darkside] traits are either knowingly evil or have become trapped in a lifestyle of wrong behavior.”
The problem is that “unpleasant” and “immoral” are subjective concepts. Because Jaquays created the books, it was his paradigm that determined what traits qualified as Darkside. At the time, Jaquays was an unabashed religious conservative. (I have no doubt that Jaquays remains religious, just not as conservative.) Among the Darkside traits were “sexual perversions,” including “transsexualism.” (Other listed ‘perversions’ included homosexuality, bisexuality, and transvestitism.)
Let’s put this in perspective. Jaquays went on a personal journey where she confronted and accepted that she is, in fact, what she once vehemently condemned. This is especially courageous and deserves admiration. Gender – and the explicit division thereof – is a core component of identity in our civilization; so much so that we have distinct pronouns for different genders. Essentially, Jaquays had to fundamentally reassess an identity she held for over fifty years. After that accomplishment, wearing high heels doesn’t seem so difficult.
Anyway, Jaquays was criticized (perhaps justifiably) for his deprecatory treatment of alternative lifestyles in the Central Casting books. In Heroes Now!, references to specific “sexual perversions” were removed and replaced with a section that touted ‘wholesome’ values and decried “popular” trends that sought to “brainwash society” into accepting “perverse behaviors” as normal. Your humble host is given to understand that Jaquays now has a different attitude, allegedly* saying that “There is content in my Central Casting Books which represents a different mindset than I now hold.”
In closing, I would like to provide a paragraph from the original Heroes of Legend:
I would think that Jaquays stills subscribes to this sentiment, although she has a different perspective as to what “deal with their problems” entails.
* Although it seems reasonable that Jaquays would say this, I cannot find the actual source for the quote.